Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has said that Brexit talks should take into account the possibility of a future referendum on Irish reunification, according to reports on Monday 18 June.
Kenny said that the Brexit negotiations should be aware that a clause in the Good Friday Agreement could be triggered, that would result in a referendum on a united Ireland.
The trigger would be "clear evidence of a majority of people wishing to leave the UK and join the Republic," Taoiseach Kenny told reporters at the annual MacGill Summer School in Glenties, County Donegal, where he spoke about the implications of Brexit.
He told Irish broadcaster RTE: "The discussions and the negotiations that take place over the next period should take into account the possibility - however far out it might be - that the clause in the Good Friday Agreement might be triggered.
"In that, if there's clear evidence of a majority of people wishing to leave the United Kingdom and join the Republic — that should be catered for in the discussions that take place." He explained that he had earlier not "favoured the holding of a border poll" because the necessary conditions set out in the Good Friday Agreement did not exist, reported the BBC.
Under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the power to call for a border poll lies with the British secretary of state. However the agreement stipulates that such a vote can only be called if there is evidence of a clear shift of public opinion in favour of Irish unity in Northern Ireland.
Kenny said that the forthcoming Brexit talks should consider the possibility that support for Northern Ireland to join the Republic "in an all-island situation" could grow as a result of the UK exiting the EU. "It may be, in the eyes of some, a fanciful theory but who knows what happens in 10,20 years' time."
The prime minister also referred to the reunification of East and West Germany as an example of how the process could be considered. "In the same way as it was possible for the former East Germany to be associated with West Germany, and not to have to go through a long and tortuous process to join the European Union - and these negotiations should take these kinds of things into account as well," he added.
James Brokenshire rules out border poll
Kenny's comments were in stark contrast to James Brokenshire's who made his first visit to Northern Ireland as the new Northern Ireland secretary. He said there was a "clear, constitutional settlement in relation to the border poll and it's also clear to be that opinion does not support a change."
Brokenshire - who visited the Belfast city hall - said: "We do need to move on now. I think that we do need to focus on the best possible outcome for Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom outside the European Union."
Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, slammed Brokenshire for ruling out a border poll but welcomed Kenny's stance. "I think it's important that he [Kenny] has taken up that position. All of us who want Irish unity need to become persuaders for that."
He added: "The fact is we are now in an entirely new dispensation given the vote to leave the EU and given the fact that that the people in this part of the island voted to Remain [in the EU]."